The Cape sparrow

The Cape sparrow

The Cape sparrow (Passer melanurus)

Although this is a common visitor to my garden, I never get tired of watching their interactions.

Species information

The Cape sparrow or mossie, has distinctive large pale head stripes, forming almost in the shape of a “C”. They are mostly grey, brown, and chestnut, with the females having grey colouring on their head and chest while the males have bold black and white markings on their head and neck. They are widespread throughout southern Africa and inhabit a wide range of habitats from the semi-arid savannah to cultivated areas, and towns. Cape sparrows eat seeds, as well as the soft fleshy parts of plants and insects.

Female showing grey and white plumage on head and chest.

Male showing black and white plumage on head and chest.

Interesting facts

The Cape sparrow was found to be the most important problem bird for agriculture in the western cape of South Africa, after developing a taste for grapes (Heyl, 1978; Swart & Flight, 1982). Heyl (1986) investigated the use of cumatetralyl as an avicide for the Cape sparrow under controlled conditions. However, he found that it had the potential to cause secondary poisoning and was thus not recommended.

Follow my instagram page for more photos and updates.



Heÿl, C.W. 1978. ‘n Vraelys-ondersoek na probleemvoelskade in Kaapland. Unpublished research report (Birds). pp. 199-207. Department of Nature and Environmental Conservation, Cape Provincial Administration, Cape Town.

Heÿl, C.W. 1986. Cumatetralyl as an avicide for use against the Cape sparrow. South African Journal of Enology and Viticulture 7(2): 71-5.

Hockey, P.A.R., Dean, W.R.J. & P.G. Ryan (Eds). 2005. Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, 7th Edition. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.

Swart, P.L. & Flight, I. 1982. Plaagvoels van sagtevrugte in Wes-Kaapland: oorsigtelike weergawe en waardeskatting. Unpublished report. Fruit and Fruit Technology Research Institute, Stellenbosch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *